By Patricia Anne Jackson
The following guidelines are meant to help all writers, regardless of ability or writing goals, find a writing group that matches their goals as a writer.
1) Be really clear with yourself about why you are looking for a critique group.
If you are looking for support for your writing:
Look for a nurturing tone to the group. Be cautious of any group that has a harsh tone. Some groups appear to have a belief that it is the sign of a mature writer if they can tolerate being attacked. Of course, the opposite is true
If you are looking for editing:
Many writers who are not grammatically strong may be seeking free editorial services from other writers who are skillful in that area. There is nothing wrong with this, but be open with your peers about this objective.
If you are looking for mentorship:
A novice writer may be looking for a more experienced or skillful water’s input. A more accomplished writer may be ready to launch for publication and be seeking a published author to help guide them in that endeavor.
2) Examine the composition of the group:
I write in multiple genres (adult short story fiction, children’s lit., young adult, creative non-fiction, memoir, poetry, memoir and fantasy) and hoped that I could find a writing group where multiple genres could be embraced and supported. I am not so sure about this anymore. If a group is largely homogenous in their genre and someone tries to present a different genre, it just does not seem to work. Also if you are moving toward publication there may be very different rules for approaching agents or editors in your genre.
3) Look at the lifespan of the group
Examine the fluidity and size of the group and ask yourself the following question:
Do you like a closed group where people become familiar with your work, or do you like the vitality of a group where new members are continually joining?
4) What is the format of the group? Ask questions about how work will be distributed.
A) Are critiques done online only? B) Traditional: Writers bring paper copies to be critiqued in the group C) Groups that read aloud. D) A mixture of the above
5) Consider the writing level of the group members. This should be pretty apparent after attending one or two meetings.
6) Do you prefer a facilitator run group?
There are many groups led by seasoned writing coaches or writers
In closing, your writing group should make you feel excited about being a writer and about being with other writers, maybe not every meeting, but almost every meeting. Ask yourself: Do the members of this group want me to achieve my writing goals? When I have successes will I look forward to telling them and will they celebrate with me? If the answer is no, leave. Your writing is your baby. Would you take your precious child to such a setting?
I welcome hearing your experiences about critique groups.
Happy writing! Patricia